Juneteenth: Why Celebrate?

“By putting on their very best clothes, the black people were signaling they were free,” historian Jackie Jones relates. “It enraged white people. They hated to see black people dressed up because it turned their world upside down.” Sartorial display is woven into resistance and celebrations of the African American holiday Juneteenth.

Emancipation Day, Austin, Texas, 1900 (from Wikipedia)

 

Today marks the anniversary of the original  Juneteenth, a celebration marking the end of slavery. What began as a regional celebration in Galveston, Texas has grown to a national commemoration that people celebrate in a variety of ways. NPR’s Code Switch has been collecting stories of how people celebrate at the hashtag #WouldntBeJuneteenthWithout, but I there is a pall over the usual celebratory mood of this Juneteenth by recent events in Seattle, where Charleena Lyles was killed by police after she called them to report a burglary, and in Minnesota, where the police officer on trial for killing Philando Castile, was acquitted on all charges.

Indeed, after the ongoing police-murder of Black people, the celebration of Juneteenth and the struggle behind it, take on a renewed sense of urgency and poignancy. Why celebrate it at all? It wasn’t always a widely recognized holiday, and it was a struggle to get it recognized.

The Struggle to Make Juneteenth a State Holiday

Juneteenth hasn’t always been recognized as a holiday, and in the family I came from it was often scoffed at (lots of derision about the name of the holiday).  So the fact that Juneteenth is now an official state holiday in Texas and many other communities across the US, is significant and is only possible because of a political struggle waged by one Houston Democratic legislator, (former) state representative Al Edwards.  It seems impossible now to mention a black, Democratic state representative and not call to mind, Rep. Clementa Pinckney, gunned down while leading that Wednesday night service in Charleston.

Former Texas State Rep. Al Edwards

Former Texas State Rep. Al Edwards

Edwards was born in Houston in 1937, the sixth of sixteen children, and was first elected as a state representative in 1978 from Houston’s District 146, the area known as Alief. A year later, in 1979, Edwards authored and sponsored House Bill 1016, making June 19th (“Juneteenth”) a paid state holiday in Texas.

Everyone, it seemed, opposed the idea. In a recent interview about this bill, attorney Doug McLeod, a conservative Democratic representative from Galveston at the time said of Edwards, “He really had an uphill battle. He had opposition from the left and the right.” Mostly white conservative Democratic majority viewed the bill as a hard sell to their constituents and many of Edwards’ 14 fellow black legislators saw it as a diversion from securing a holiday for Martin Luther King.

House Bill 1016 appeared to be headed nowhere when Edwards, a Democrat who was new to the legislature, originally filed it. Eventually, he got McLeod to sign on to the bill and Bill Clayton, then speaker of the Texas legislature.

Then-Gov. Bill Clements, a Republican, declined to endorse the Juneteenth bill, but he agreed to sign it if passed. Through a series of negotiations and brokered deals over votes, Rep. Edwards eventually prevailed and got the bill through the legislature.  When the bill passed, white conservative opponents urged the governor not to sign the bill, but Clements kept his word and signed the bill on the Texas State Capitol steps. This prompted other states to follow suit. Now 43 states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth in some way or another.

History and Struggle Behind Juneteenth

President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865, but people remained enslaved within the state of Texas.

This happened for two reasons.

First, Texas slave owners refused to release the people they were holding as slaves.  They basically just wouldn’t acknowledge that the Emancipation Proclamation or Lee’s surrender had happened or had any bearing on them (cf. “States Rights,”  see also Texas is a Whole Other Country).

Second, slave owners from neighboring states in the south looked on Texas as a haven for slavery, so they poured into Texas with an estimated 125,000-150,000* enslaved people  from surrounding Confederate states (*historians debate the precise number).

In a recent interview, Jackie Jones,a history professor at the University of Texas at Austin.”The idea was Texas was so vast that the federal government would never be able to conquer it all. There is this view that if they want to hold onto their slaves, the best thing to do is get out of the South and go to Texas.”

This ended on June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston and again declared the end of the Civil War, with General Granger reading aloud a special decree that ordered the freeing of some 200,000 people still in bondage in Texas.

Today, some 43 states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth in some way. This would not have been possible without the vision of Rep. Al Edwards and the struggle to make it a reality.

In times like these, what’s to celebrate?

With the official, legal end of chattel slavery — and the enforcement of that decree in Texas — there was much to celebrate in 1865. It was no longer legal for human beings to be sold on auction blocks as they had been. And, to be clear, the US didn’t just tolerate slavery as an economic system, it expanded and prospered on it.  The overturning of this dehumanizing system was a momentous victory for a multi-racial group of abolitionists who waged a decades long campaign to end slavery.

Reconstruction followed, creating new opportunities for African Americans who owned and profited from their own land and began to participate in local politics.

Most Americans remain confused about the period of Reconstruction, and many still subscribe toA false story of Reconstruction disseminated in popular culture through things like the film Birth of a Nation.  Although historians including Columbia University’s Eric Foner have shown the extraordinary political, economic, and legal gains of Reconstruction, as Gregory P. Downs notes at TPM.

One historian, C. Vann Woodward, has called the period of “the forgotten alternatives.” During the period between 1870 and 1900, there was some racial integration in housing and privately-owned facilities. Black people could travel on public transportation, vote and get elected, get jobs, including on police forces, and enjoy many public facilities.

But. the gains of Reconstruction were short-lived.

This “alternative” approach to race during Reconstruction ended when what Woodward calls the “strange career” of Jim Crow segregation, began — first by whites in the North, and expanded with a vengeance by Southern whites. Within thirty years of emancipation, laws were instituted that stripped African Americans of their rights, making celebrations like Juneteenth a distant memory. A prison-labor paradigm developed. White jail owners profited from the hard labor of their black inmates who were incarcerated for petty crimes like vagrancy, which carried long sentences. White landowners replaced chattel slavery with a deceptive practice called debt peonage, a new form of bondage continued for many blacks for decades. It wasn’t until 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Circular No. 3591 which strengthened the Anti-Peonage Law of 1867, making it a criminal offense.  Roosevelt launched a federal investigation, prosecuted guilty whites and effectively ended peonage in 1942.

So, why celebrate Juneteenth if white supremacy re-emerged with such a bloody return thirty short years later? Because celebration, commemoration and community are how we gain strength for the larger struggle.

Douglas Blackmon, author of Slavery by Another Name land co-executive producer of the documentary film by the same name, said this about Juneteenth:

“It’s important not to skip over the first part of true freedom. Public education as we know it today and the first property rights for women were instituted by African-American elected officials.”

Even as there is terrible news of continued police killing of Black people, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on other times, other struggles and other victories on this anniversary of Juneteenth.

 

 

 

Imposed Identities: Perils of Racial-Ethnic Identifiability

In Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, Beverly Tatum describes racial identity development as an ongoing, continuous process comparable to climbing a spiral staircase. Building on the theory of William Cross, she chronicles the journey arising from encountering the beliefs of a dominant white culture, recognizing one’s own devalued position, exploring the multiple facets of one’s own identity, and emerging to affirm a positive self-identity and support diverse others in their exploration. Intersectionality complicates the picture even further as the multiple dimensions of social identity that include race, gender, and sexual orientation among others combine to create what Patricia Hill Collins calls multiple jeopardies or interlocking systems of oppression.

As a biracial individual with a strong physical resemblance to my father who immigrated from Mainland China and much lesser resemblance to my German-American mother, I have repeatedly encountered the question: “Where are you from?” and when I answer, “New York,” the questioner invariably probes deeper to “Where are you really from?” or “Where are your parents from?” or even sometimes, “Where are your grandparents from?” Even with friends I have known for years, I will be asked questions about the culture, customs, and society of mainland China, although I have not lived or visited there and have only been to Hong Kong when it was a British colony. The irony even extended to my mother, who although white, was sometimes mistaken for being Asian due to her last name and asked what part of China she was from.

Frank Wu identifies the invisibility of Asian Americans in serious public discourse and their high visibility in popular culture that has led to powerful stereotypes such as the notion of the perpetual foreigner. In Yellow: Beyond Black and White, he underscores the way that context operates to create forms of exclusion:

Race is meaningless in the abstract, it acquires it meanings as it operates on its surroundings (p. 22).

The conflation of race with citizenship has led to the common experience among Asian Americans that he so aptly describes:

More than anything else that unites us, everyone with an Asian face who lives in America is afflicted by the perpetual foreigner syndrome. We are figuratively and literally returned to Asia and ejected from America (p. 70).

This outsider syndrome and the stereotypes it perpetuates have consequences. In The Myth of the Model Minority, Rosalind Chou and Joe Feagin highlight research revealing that Asian Americans are less than one percent of the boards of Fortune 500 firms and are generally described as technical workers and not executives. Despite extensive qualifications, Asian Americans are only rarely considered for management roles and have frequently chosen scientific professions due to the subjectivity that can accompany non-technical careers in other professions.

Perhaps to Native Americans or African Americans who have suffered enslavement and even efforts at extermination, the persistence of the perpetual foreigner syndrome and other stereotypes that Asian Americans face might seem like less serious concerns. But what is deeply troubling to all Americans of color is what Joe Feagin refers to as “imposed identities.” As he points out, the hundreds of published research papers on racial and ethnic identity are almost always devoted to questions of how individuals seek to define their own racial or ethnic identities personally (typically on check-off lists) instead of how they must deal with the racial or ethnic identities imposed upon them by white employers, police officials, and others with decision-making power in a highly racialized society. Indeed, Derald Wing Sue identifies the nature of contemporary oppression as involving the imposition of identity upon marginalized groups that can take place through acts of overt and covert racial-ethnic exclusion–a range of acts including micro-aggressions, micro-assaults, and micro-invalidations. And exclusionary racial-ethnic stereotyping and other racial-ethnic framing can occur literally in seconds as the results of many Implicit Association Tests have regularly demonstrated.

Even more than ever in the context of a deeply divided society, we are called upon on a daily basis to nurture a community in which interpersonal interactions resist the simplicity of such imposed stereotypes and other framing, bridge the divides of physical identifiability, and assert the underlying connection between our diversity and our common humanity.

Trump’s Impact on Americans of Color

The evidence in his first 100 days — by word, deed, and policy — couldn’t be clearer. Our president does not care for people of color. No? Let’s look at the evidence. It is voluminous.

Immediately after his hallucinatory inauguration, President Donald Trump loudly reaffirmed the need to keep Mexicans out of the United States, and that a “beautiful” wall would be erected quickly to bar Mexico’s riffraff from entering our nation.

And Mexico would pay for the wall, a hot air balloon that has progressively become deflated — going from “Mexico will definitely pay for the wall,” to “well, we will impose taxes that will result in Mexico really paying for the wall,” to “OK, work with me on this —Congress will provide the money to build the wall until Mexico pays for it.” This occurs despite much evidence suggesting that the wall will not stop undocumented immigration.

A week after his inauguration, Trump decreed a travel ban affecting seven Muslim countries, which caught many people off guard and generated massive havoc for travelers worldwide. Soon afterward, a federal judge in Washington state overturned the travel ban. Trump responded with Muslim Ban Lite. He did minor tweaks, excluding Iraq from the travel ban. Shortly, two federal judges — in Hawaii and Maryland — ruled against the second travel ban.

Trump issued an executive order in late January that reaffirmed that the wall would go up and expanded the categories of people who could be deported. The order also called for a significant increase in Border Patrol agents and immigration officers. The edict also mandated an expansion of detention centers, a worrisome measure. Private detention centers, the largest run by CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) and GEO Group, are sure to make massive profits once the Trump mass deportation machine goes into effect. As of early March, the stock value of CoreCivic had risen by 120 percent since the November election, and that of GEO increased by 80 percent.

This is a significant change from September when private detention centers were at risk of losing their contracts with the government. The Department of Justice had decided to phase out private prisons because of declining prisoner populations and major concerns about safety, security and medical care.

While the massive deportations have not yet materialized, there is intense fear in the immigrant community. That’s because even people without criminal records are potential deportees. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Session have threatened communities and counties with the loss of federal funds if they designate themselves as sanctuary cities, places that provide safe space for unauthorized immigrants — particularly those entities that do not fully cooperate with immigration officials on detainer requests. A federal judge in San Francisco recently ruled against Trump on this as well. Dreamers — undocumented immigrants brought here as children — are also unsure about their security. Trump has suggested that he likes them and will not put them at risk, but there is plenty of cause in Trump’s record to worry.

Haitian immigrants who were granted special immigration status following the devastating earthquake that shook Haiti in 2010 also face uncertainty as Trump has yet to renew their status. If he does not do so by July 22, approximately 50,000 Haitians risk deportation. While mass incarceration has disproportionately snared people of color over the past four decades, recent criminal justice reform represented a ray of hope.

But Trump and Sessions now seek to undo these measures. Never mind that the crime rate is about 42 percent below that in 1997. believing that the Department of Justice should not take on that role.

All these efforts will put people of color at greater risk of being racially profiled, disproportionately arrested and sentenced, and having their civil rights violated. People of color and, more broadly, the poor were targeted in Trump’s unsuccessful effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. Trump had an embarrassing setback in not being able to eliminate Obamacare. Yet he is not giving up. He and congressional allies continue to try to dismantle Obamacare piecemeal, now concentrating on cost-share subsidies. He tried to swap $1 of such subsidies for every $1 that Democrats pony up for the border wall.

Despite the problems that plague Obamacare, it continues to be a lifeline for many people who otherwise could not afford health insurance. According to data from the American Community Survey, between 2010 (when Obamacare was signed but before it went into effect) and 2015, 26.7 million more Americans had insurance; the majority of them were white. The number of poor Americans with health care insurance rose by nearly 4.3 million during this five-year period, again with poor whites being the largest group (39 percent) of new beneficiaries. Many of these poor whites rallied behind Trump and helped put him in the White House. Obviously, Trump does not have their best interests in mind.

Trump has surrounded himself with few people of color. His Cabinet is the least diverse since that of Ronald Reagan. Nearly four-fifths of Trump’s 33 Cabinet members are white men. Only four are persons of color (two Asians, one African-American and one Latino) and merely five are women (two of whom are doing double duty as a female and a person of color). Throughout his campaign, Trump used hateful racist rhetoric against people of color. He embraced alt-right and white nationalist groups, and selected a prominent member of these groups —-Stephen Bannon—- to serve as his chief strategist.

It is not surprising that in his first 100 days as president — marked on April 29 — Trump has shown that he is not a friend of people of color. His policies and priorities are intended to firmly put people of color in their place, including through deportations and by not allowing others to enter our country. This is what he envisioned in his quest to “make America great again.” In the process, however, Trump has alienated and insulted so many groups — including people of color, the poor, women, immigrants, Muslims, the GLBTQ community and others — that he has roused the American spirit of protest. He has politicized many good people who realize they cannot accept Trump as normal and that he must be vigorously challenged.

This has the real possibility of making Trump either a one-term president or bringing about his impeachment over the numerous questionable and unethical actions that continue to pile up.

Rogelio Sáenz is Dean of the College of Public Policy and holds the Mark G. Yudof Endowed Chair at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He is co-author of Latinos in the United States: Diversity and Change. (Note: This article was originally published in the San Antonio Express-News on May 6, 2017.)

John Brown’s Birthday

[This updates a May 9, 2010 post on the birthday of John Brown–an important US revolutionary who died, with his black and white colleagues, fighting for the freedom of enslaved African Americans.]

David Reynolds, the author of an important biography of the white antislavery activist and abolitionist John Brown, did a NYT op-ed piece noting that December 2009 marked the 150 anniversary of his hanging for organizing an insurrection against slavery. He gives historical background and calls for an official pardon for Brown. In October 1859,

With a small band of abolitionists, Brown had seized the federal arsenal there and freed slaves in the area. His plan was to flee with them to nearby mountains and provoke rebellions in the South. But he stalled too long in the arsenal and was captured.

Brown’s group of antislavery band of attackers included whites, including relatives and three Jewish immigrants, and a number of blacks. (Photo: Wikipedia) Radical 225px-John_brown_aboabolitionists constituted one of the first multiracial groups to struggle aggressively against systemic racism in US history.

A state court in Virginia convicted him of treason and insurrection, and the state hanged him on December 2, 1859. Reynolds argues we should revere Brown’s raid and this date as a key milestone in the history of anti-oppression movements. Brown was not the “wild and crazy” man of much historical and textbook writing:

Brown reasonably saw the Appalachians, which stretch deep into the South, as an ideal base for a guerrilla war. He had studied the Maroon rebels of the West Indies, black fugitives who had used mountain camps to battle colonial powers on their islands. His plan was to create panic by arousing fears of a slave rebellion, leading Southerners to view slavery as dangerous and impractical.

We forget today just how extensively revered John Brown was in his day:

Ralph Waldo Emerson compared him to Jesus, declaring that Brown would “make the gallows as glorious as the cross.” Henry David Thoreau placed Brown above the freedom fighters of the American Revolution. Frederick Douglass said that while he had lived for black people, John Brown had died for them. A later black reformer, W. E. B. Du Bois, called Brown the white American who had “come nearest to touching the real souls of black folk.” . . . . By the time of his hanging, John Brown was so respected in the North that bells tolled in many cities and towns in his honor.

And then there were the Union troops singing his praises for years in the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Brown’s comments to reporters at his trial and hanging suggest how sharp his antiracist commitment was. For example, Brown’s lucid comment on his sentence of death indicates his commitment to racial justice: “Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments,—I submit, so let it be done!”

Reynolds notes that Brown was not a perfect hero, but one with “blotches on his record,” yet none of the heroes of this era is without major blotches. Indeed,

Lincoln was the Great Emancipator, but he shared the era’s racial prejudices, and even after the war started thought that blacks should be shipped out of the country once they were freed. Andrew Jackson was the man of his age, but in addition to being a slaveholder, he has the extra infamy of his callous treatment of Native Americans, for which some hold him guilty of genocide.

Given his brave strike against slavery, Reynolds argues, he should be officially pardoned, first of course by the current governor of Virginia (Kaine). But

A presidential pardon, however, would be more meaningful. Posthumous pardons are by definition symbolic. They’re intended to remove stigma or correct injustice. While the president cannot grant pardons for state crimes, a strong argument can be made for a symbolic exception in Brown’s case. . . . Justice would be served, belatedly, if President Obama and Governor Kaine found a way to pardon a man whose heroic effort to free four million enslaved blacks helped start the war that ended slavery.

Brown did more than lead a raid against slavery. We should remember too that in May 1858, Brown and the great black abolitionist and intellectual Martin R. Delany had already gathered together a group of black and white abolitionists for a revolutionary anti-slavery meeting just outside the United States, in the safer area of Chatham, Canada. Nearly four dozen black and white Americans met and formulated a new Declaration of Independence and Constitution (the first truly freedom-oriented one in North America) to govern what they hoped would be a growing band of armed revolutionaries drawn from the enslaved population; these revolutionaries would fight aggressively as guerillas for an end to the U.S. slavery system and to create a new constitutional system where justice and freedom were truly central. (For more, see Racist America (3rd. ed.)

Today, one needed step in the antiracist cause is for all levels of U.S. education to offer courses that discuss the brave actions of antiracist activists like John Brown and Martin Delany, and those many other, now nameless heroes who marched with them. And how about a major monument in Washington, DC to celebrate them and all the other abolitionist heroes? We have major monuments there to elite white male slaveholders, why not to those men and women of all backgrounds who died in trying to overthrow (246 years of) US slavery?

100 Days of Trump’s Brand of White Supremacy

(Image source)

Today marks the one hundredth day of the Trump administration and his own peculiar brand of white supremacy. There are dozens of 100-day retrospectives around, including some beautifully written ones, but none that I’ve read so far try to connect the threads of white supremacy, white nationalism and Trumpism through these 100 days of outrage. This is my attempt. I’m not exactly sure why I did this in list-icle form, but this post is a kind of note-taking for a longer, narrative piece (a book maybe?) that I’m thinking through now. So. I hope this makes sense and is useful for someone else. And, if not, hey, I’ll use it at some point.

A big tip of the hat to the good work Matt Kiser is doing over at WTFJHT. (I used his chronology of events to pull this 100-item list together, but I confess I only got to Day 38.)

  1. With no political or elected experience, Trump rises to political prominence through a reality TV show and by hectoring the first Black president for his birth certificate, inspiring Charles M. Blow to call him “The Grand Wizard of Birtherism.” 
  2. Trump launches campaign with tirade about “drugs” and “rapists” coming from Mexico, and vows to build border wall along the southern U.S. border.
  3. He loses the popular vote, but wins a majority of white voters (including 53% of white women), and wins via the electoral college. CNN commentator Van Jones call this election a “whitelash.”
  4. Steve Bannon, publisher of Breitbart news, will lead the White House staff.
  5. Bannon said that he built Breitbart as a “platform for the alt-right.” 
  6. Brietbart received at least $10 million dollars in funding from the Mercer Family.
  7. Rebekah Mercer, middle daughter of the wealthy family, has been called the “First Lady of the Alt-Right.” She, and her father Robert Mercer, were among Trump’s biggest financial supporters.
  8. Robert Mercer is one of the principals behind Cambridge Analytica, the secretive psychometrics firm that claims to have helped Trump win the election.
  9. Trump takes office Jan.20, and fumes when photographs show his crowds to be smaller than those for Obama’s inauguration. Sean Spicer disputes these facts by emphatically stating Trump’s crowds were the “largest ever” to witness an inauguration.
  10. Kellyanne Conway defends Spicer’s lies about crowd numbers, saying he offered “alternative facts.” 
  11. Spicer says the White House finds the “negative Trump coverage” from the media “demoralizing.”
  12. In one of their first official acts, the new administration adds a page to the White House website, “Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community,” which reads, in part: ““Our job is not to make life more comfortable for the rioter, the looter, or the violent disrupter.” Many viewed this as a way of putting Black Lives Matter protests on notice.
  13. In the first 34 days after the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center counted a total of 1,094 bias incidents around the nation; 37% of them directly referenced either President-elect Trump, his campaign slogans, or his infamous remarks about sexual assault.
  14. A collection of white nationalists claim credit for his election, saying “we memed a president.” 
  15. White nationalists gather in DC to celebrate his election.
  16. Putin’s Russia has emerged as a beacon for nationalists and the American “alt-right”
  17. White nationalists gather in DC to celebrate his inauguration.
  18. U.S.-based white naitonalist Matthew Heimbach calls “Russia is our biggest inspiration.”
  19. “The alt-right reopens questions of Jewish Whiteness.” 
  20. Invited on CNN, white n ationalist Richard Spencer calls into question “if Jews are people.” CNN panel debates. 
  21. As one of his first actions in office, Trump signs an Executive Order immediately banning immigration ban from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Widely referred to by people in the administration as a “Muslim ban,” it is declared illegal.
  22. Kleptocracy unrestrained and unhidden (travel ban excludes those countries where Trump org has business ties).
  23. US military rents space in Trump Tower, at a cost to taxpayers of roughly $1.5million per year, money that goes into the Trump family’s bank accounts.
  24. Mostly absent from DC and the news media, third-wife Melania Trump, reveals her plan to sign “multi-million dollar” endorsement deals as First Lady.
  25.  The new administration sides with forces that seek environmental destruction for profit at the expense of indigenous people and communities of color, including approving the Keystone Pipeline,  Dakota Access Pipeline,  hobbling the EPA, and scrubbing the EPA website of climate science.
  26. An FBI terrorism taskforce is investigating Standing Rock “water protectors” as terrorists.
  27. The Trump administration tells white nationalists and extremists that it won’t fight them at all, as it shifts all investigations of “extremism” to those committed in the name of Islam. This continues the trend under Obama of ignoring the threat of far-right extremism committed by white (christian) men.
  28. Trump posted a false news story to his Facebook page — that Kuwait had also issued a visa ban on several Muslim-majority countries after his immigration order, which they did not. Still, the post got thousands of shares.
  29. White House declares that negative polls are “fake news.”
  30. WH official: “We’ll say ‘fake news’ until media sees attitude of attacking the president is wrong.” 
  31. Steve Bannon says: “media should keep its mouth shut.”
  32. Trump accuses the “dishonest media” of “covering up terrorist attacks,” an idea he got from Alex Jones, who hosts the right-wing InfoWars. 
  33. Trump falsely claims that the murder rate is at a 47-year high, and accuses the media for not reporting it because “it wasn’t to their advantage to say that.”
  34. In a tweet, Trump calls the media (NYTimes, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN) “the enemy of the people.”
  35. He says critics “pull out the racist card” when they characterize him or his policies as anti-Muslim or anti-black.
  36. “Buy Ivanka’s stuff,” urged Kellyanne Conway on air, after a retailer threatened to pull the first daughter’s clothing line from stores. The “free commercial” was a “clear violation” of ethics rules.  Conway was “briefed” about ethics, twice, by White House counsel.
  37. Steve Bannon moves on to the National Security Council. (And then he’s removed.)
  38. Stephen Miller, a 31-year-old senior advisor to the president is a fierce advocate of “ethno-nationalism,” the racist belief that Europe and America must protect their (white) culture and civilization from outsiders. Miller echoed those talking points on Sunday talk shows, claiming that “millions” of “illegal aliens” voted against Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
  39. Michale ‘Decius’ Anton, referred to as “White House Machiavelli,” and “America’s Leading Authoritarian Intellectual,” is an advisor to the president and has a seat on the NSC. Bannon has called him a “leading intellectual in the nationalist movement.”  According to another writer: “Race is integral to Anton’s sense of his own persecution. He sees the enthusiasm for Trump among avowed white supremacists as more reason to support Trump…”
  40. Kellyanne Conway defends the travel ban by citing a non-existent “Bowling Green Massacre,” supposedly carried out by Islamic terrorists.
  41. In a tweet, Trump says  judicial decisions that halted his executive order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries had allowed a flood of refugees to pour into the country. “Our legal system is broken!” Mr. Trump wrote in a Twitter posting a day after he said that he was considering a wholesale rewriting of the executive order to circumvent legal hurdles quickly but had not ruled out appealing the major defeat he suffered in a federal appeals court on Thursday. “SO DANGEROUS!” the president added.
  42. Disorientation disarms the public, argues Joel Whitebook. “Trumpism as a social-psychological phenomenon has aspects reminiscent of psychosis, in that it entails a systematic — and it seems likely intentional — attack on our relation to reality.”
  43. In a tweet, Trump threatens to cut federal funds to UC-Berkeley after a speech by former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulous was disrupted by anti-fascist protestors.
  44. Milo attacked, and encouraged others to attack, actor Leslie Jones via Twitter.  Jones later accused Simon & Schuster of spreading hate by offering him a six-figure book contractive.
  45. An anti-fascist protestor was shot by a Trump supporter outside a venue where Milo was giving a speech.
  46. Milo disappears from public briefly after losing an invitation to CPAC and a lucrative book deal over comments he made about pedophilia.
  47. Milo reemerges a few weeks later, claiming to have $12 million in start up funds for a new media company, Milo Inc. dedicated to:  “making the lives of journalists, professors, politicians, feminists, Black Lives Matter activists, and other professional victims a living hell.”
  48. While there were many comparisons between Trump’s authoritarian white nationalism and the Third Reich during the election, once he takes office, much of this wanes in favor of more sedate analysis like this.
  49. Avowed white nationalists are now blending into the media ecosystem.
  50. Some are warning about a ‘Reichstag fire,’ which allows for seizing control through a call for ‘law and order.’
  51. Trump threatens to send federal troops to Chicago to deal with ‘carnage.’ 
  52. In off-the-cuff remarks at the beginning of Black History Month, Trump mentions abolitionist Frederick Douglass, referring to him as “somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more,” prompting speculation that he doesn’t know who the historical figure is.
  53. During the first week in office for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and still during Black History Month, the “Department of Education sent out a tweet that misspelled W.E.B. DuBois’ name. Then, apologized, but included a typo in the apology. Both tweets have been deleted.
  54. Administrators in a Maryland school that is 93% white, asked teachers to take down “pro-diversity” posters because they are “anti-Trump.” The posters, designed by Shepard Fairey they depict Latina, Muslim and black women, with slogans like “We the people are greater than fear.”
  55. The Anti-Defamation League received a bomb threat.
  56. In a rambling press conference, Trump asks April Ryan, if members of the Congressional Black Caucus “They friends of yours?” and if she will “set up a meeting” between the CBC and the president.
  57. The president, chiding Democrats, refers to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, when he says, “Pocahontas is now the face of your party.”
  58. The “shock and awe” strategy of a barrage of Executive Orders in the early days of the administration was engineered by Jeff Sessions, an early Trump supporter.
  59. In attempt to block Jeff Sessions’ nomination to Attorney General, Sen. Elizabeth Warren attempts to read the words of Coretta Scott King’s indictment of Sessions’ racism. The Senate GOP used an obscure rule and voted to silence her. 
  60. Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, asserts that Coretta Scott King “would have changed her mind” about Sessions.
  61. Jeff Sessions, too racist to be a federal judge (1986), is appointed as Attorney General (2017)
  62. A member of the Senate Intelligence Committee calls for an exhaustive investigation into Trump-Russia connections following Michael Flynn’s resignation as National Security Advisor.
  63. Michael Flynn promoted a tweet that read “Not anymore, Jews” and endorsed a racist author who claims “diversity is code for white genocide.” Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke had declared Flynn to be a “great pick!” when he was selected.
  64. Neo-Nazis at Daily Stormer blame “The Jews” for Michael Flynn’s resignation.
  65. White women are core supporters, and leaders, of Trumpism. KellyAnne Conway describes herself as “the face of the Trump Movement.”
  66. And, of course, First Daughter Ivanka Trump does a good deal of work to mitigate father’s fascism, cruelty and white supremacy so that it is more palatable.
  67. According to leaked emails, Ginni Thomas, wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, looked for a way to organize in favor of the travel ban, a case that is very likely to appear before the court. This is a murky ethical terrain, legal experts say.
  68. TIME magazine features Steve Bannon on the cover and asks is he the second most powerful man in the world?
  69. Steve Bannon says, “media should keep its mouth shut”
  70. Again and again, Trump perpetuated the racist myth that “Mexico should pay for the wall.” 
  71. Trump increases ICE raids on immigrants, claiming he is getting rid of “bad hombres,” yet in one study, half have only a traffic violation or no criminal record at all. 
  72. ICE has about 100 “fugitive teams” working on “targeted enforcement actions.” The agency says it has been just as active as during the Obama administration
  73. Fatima Avelica, 14 years old, wept and recorded a video of ICE arresting her father, as he dropped her off for school.
  74. Immigration agents arrest 600 in one week.
  75. Daniel Ramirez, a ‘DREAMer’ who has protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, was arrested for allegedly being a gang member, officials said.
  76. ICE detains a woman at a courthouse in Texas where she was seeking a protective order against an abusive boyfriend. “This is really unprecedented,” said one observer.
  77. The organization FAIR, with deep ties to white nationalists, is helping to set immigration policy in Trump’s administration.
  78. DHS documents reveal aggressive new immigration, border enforcement policies.
  79. People lose their jobs after joining “Day without Immigrants” protests.
  80. Trump plans to hire 15,000 new Border Patrol and ICE agents.
  81. The White House statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day didn’t mention Jews or anti-Semitism because “others were killed too.”
  82. Trump gives a speech to Congress, speaks in complete sentences, those attending listen and applaud; members of the media praise him as “presidential.” When Obama gave a speech to Congress, an elected official yelled, “you lie!” at him during the speech.
  83. Trump pal Bill O’Reilly out at Fox News for being a serial sexual harasser, but Neo-Nazis are rejoicing over Tucker Carlson’s move to primetime.
  84. Sebastian Gorka, linked to a neo-Nazi group, appointed as ‘terror advisor,’ and has a fake PhD, may be on his way out.
  85. But the anti-immigrant views of Steve Bannon (‘Why even let ’em in?’) continue to guide the policy-making at the White House.
  86. The administration is considering even more EO’s that would block immigration of any “individuals who are likely to become, or have become, a burden on taxpayers.
  87. Steve Bannon reportedly sidelined for referring to Jared Kushner as a ‘cuck’ and a ‘globalist’ (terms used by white nationalists and the ‘alt-right.’)
  88. Not gone for long, Bannon reasserts his influence in the 100-day push to craft some “wins” for a president who has met with repeated defeat.
  89. The first sitting president to visit the gun-rights group in thirty years, Trump tells the NRA he is a “true friend and champion” while the NRA continues to support scientific racism in its rhetoric and in who it sees as its constituency. The ‘right to bear arms’ is perhaps the white-est of rights.
  90. In a tweet, Trump accuses Obama of wiretapping, a federal crime, with no evidence.
  91. The administration settles into a reliable blame game: blaming Obama for everything that goes wrong now, from botched raid in Yemen to hiring Michael Flynn to   the economy to whatever fails next. “I inherited a mess,” Trump claims.
  92. When Obama is not the target, another key strategy seems to be going after Black Women, mostly recently Susan Rice.
  93. Near Atlanta, a 14-year old girl is attacked and her head scarf removed as people yell “Terrorist!” at her. In Austin, someone distributed Easter Eggs with stickers reading, “celebrating in white culture.”  An updating list of ‘Hate in America,” is a new feature at Slate, one of the few media outlets with such a regular feature.
  94. Jeff Sessions orders the Justice Department to review all police reform agreements.
  95.  A 51-year-old white, American man faces first-degree murder charges after shooting two men in an Olathe, Kansas bar, after yelling: “get out of my country” and “terrorist.” The shooter mistakenly believed the men were from Iran. Both of the men who were shot are originally from India and working in the US as engineers.  One died, the other survived. Trump issued no statement on the shootings. 
  96. Jeff Sessions plans to double down on mass incarceration
  97. In a tirade about immigration policies in Europe, Trump made reference to a terrorist attack “last night in Sweden,” but no such attack occurred. He later revealed, in a tweet, that he had heard the story on Fox News.
  98. Trump doubles down on his accusation that refugees in Sweden were behind a rise in crime and terrorism. Swedish officials are bewildered, saying there is no evidence for the claim that migration has driven up crime.
  99. Of course, like so many mediocre white men, Trump is given the luxury of “learning” his job as he does it. And, to almost no one’s surprise, he is displaying “extraordinary ineptitude”
  100. Also in the category of not surprising, and typical of a privileged white man who has had everything given to him: “I thought this [being president] would be easier” Or, was it just that if a Black man had done it, he didn’t think it could be that hard?

I’ll have more to say about all this in narrative form, before too long.  Let me know what I missed! Comments are open (for now).

 

~ Jessie Daniels, Professor of Sociology, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. She is the author of several books, including White Lies (1997) and Cyber Racism (2009). You can follow her on Twitter at @JessieNYC.

What Disney’s Andi Mack Reveals about Asian Americans

(Image source)

 

Andi Mack, a television show that features three generations of Asian American women, premiered on the Disney Channel earlier this month.  The lead character “Andi” is a thirteen-year-old, mixed-race girl, who lives with her barely-middle-aged grandmother, and—spoiler alert if you haven’t watched the first episode—her mother, “Bex”, short for Rebecca, who looks and dresses, as if she could be in her early thirties.

The premiere of Andi Mack is noteworthy because Asian Americans in mainstream American entertainment are so rare. When they do appear, Asian Americans are usually “white-washed,” replaced by white actors or actors of mixed-ethnicity, most recently in ‘Doctor Strange,’ and ‘Ghost in the Shell.  In the few American films where there are Asian American protagonists, like “Better Luck Tomorrow,” “21 and Over,” and “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle,” Asian American women are veritably absent and silent; they exist to develop men’s characters.

 

It’s been more than twenty years since Margaret Cho critiqued the mainstream interpretation and portrayal of her stand-up comedy, in the first and short-lived Asian American family sitcom “All American Girl” on ABC. Similarly, Eddie Huang questioned the representation of his biography when “Fresh Off the Boat” premiered on ABC in 2015. Although the show has given Constance Wu opportunities to speak about the barriers Asian Americans face in Hollywood, the character she plays has been memorable because of the comedic “tiger mom” stereotypes she portrays.

 

According to The Columbus Dispatch, Andi Mack is Disney Channel’s attempt to rebrand itself, amidst Netflix competition with edgier material. Considering that Asian women are typecast as the “geisha,” the “dragon lady,” or the “tiger mom,” it was refreshing to see that including teenage pregnancy allowed Andi, Bex, and her grandmother to have complex thoughts, emotions, histories, and character development.  However, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the tricky topic of teenage pregnancy was allowed particularly because of Andi and Bex’s white, multiracial heritage and through their relationships with white men.

The first episode begins with partial shots of a helmeted driver revving a motorized bike and clattering down a grassy hill to a street corner. The driver stops abruptly in front of two pre-teens, and whips off her helmet in a slow motion tumble of short brown hair and an immediately endearing and unforgettable crooked-tooth grin. Andi proudly shows off her new scooter to her two astonished friends, Buffy and Cyrus. Buffy, looks like a part white, mixed-race girl. She has light brown skin, and thick dark brown hair, with the texture of Rachel Dolezal. Cyrus has light skin and short, straight, dark brown hair but due to his pre-pubescent voice and worried reaction to Andi’s new scooter, he seems as gender ambiguous as Andi herself.

Scholar Rose Weitz writes about how women use their hair to create personal meaning and power in their lives. Weitz argues that women use their hair to resist popular ideals of feminine beauty and to distance themselves from cultural control over their bodies. A lot has been written about how men and women participate in gender policing of women’s bodies. Women cannot be too sexy or too manly. They cannot be too passive or too aggressive.  They should be authoritative but not bitchy. Moreover, women who are not white will be inherently unable to meet standards for white, feminine beauty.

Terri Minsky, the creator of Lizzie McGuire, cast Peyton Elizabeth Lee as protagonist Andi Mack in part because of her crooked smile, her short boyish hair, and her mixed-ethnicity; she looked distinct from the polished children cast in Hollywood. Minsky specifically told Disney she wanted to keep Andi’s hair short. In addition to Andi’s gender ambiguous name, Bex and Jonah Beck, the brown hair and blue-eyed boy Andi has a crush on, both call her “Andiman.” These moments of gender ambiguity make me wonder if Andi’s short hair and gender ambiguous name would have been allowed if she weren’t part white.

“Andi Mack” is not an example of an Asian name that would receive fewer call backs for job interviews. As names go, it’s about as Asian as “Lizzie McGuire.” Between Andi, her mother, and her grandmother, only her grandmother is not mixed-race. In the first episode, Andi compares the parenting style of her white grandfather to his wife, her strict and controlling Asian grandmother. When Andi finds out that Bex is her mother, and all three women become hysterical, her grandfather warmly and firmly reminds his frantic Asian wife, “we knew this day would come” and “they have to make the best of it.” The show’s easy portrayal of Andi’s understanding and agreeable white grandfather reminds me of a familiar strain of American history, where white men bring progressive, modern freedoms to backwards foreigners and especially to culturally oppressed non-white women.

Homecoming Dresses

When Andi finds out that her crush, Jonah, has a girlfriend, she has a fight with Bex and accuses her mother of “barely knowing her.” However, she starts to feel better after Jonah texts her saying that he misses her, even though he also barely knows her. When Andi’s mother tries to build up Andi’s confidence, Andi doesn’t listen but when Jonah tells her the same thing, Andi feels better about herself. We can write this off as young love but that’s the point, for Andi’s grandmother and for Andi, it’s the relationship with a reassuring and authoritative white man that resolves an emotionally unstable Asian or mixed-race woman, when she experiences low self-esteem or when she’s upset with other women in her family.  

A recent New York Times article about the potential for biracial people to heal racial divides suggests that by biologically mixing racial minorities with white people then somehow we will see that everyone is human and deserves equal rights and respect. This assumption hides that race, culture, and biology itself are socially constructed.

(Image from NYT)

But, there is lots of research to show that mixed-race societies still experience racism. Race was created and continues to be used as a way to stratify and control people, according to relations of domination and subordination. I was born and raised in Hawaii, which is wrongly assumed to be a “racial paradise” because a large proportion of the population consists of racial minorities and multiracial families.

Native Hawaiians experience lasting repercussions from colonial relations with U.S. imperialism as other indigenous peoples and Filipinos experience ethnic discrimination and over-representation in blue-collar, low-wage jobs, similar to Mexicans in the mainland U.S.

When I and some colleagues analyzed Filipino college students’ essays in Hawai‘i, we found that Filipino students distanced themselves from a Filipino identity because of families that taught them to prioritize and embrace American culture and because of ethnic and cultural discrimination they experienced in local culture. Language and culture courses helped Filipino students to find pride in their ethnic identity. However, top-down pedagogy left some students feeling alienated by essentializing discourses and boundary-making processes within the Filipino community, especially when the course content did not give students the opportunity to make sense of disparate and changing contexts that Filipino- Americans experience.

Instead of placing our hope in the biology and culture of interracial children of the future, social historians like Emma Teng and Natalia Molina argue for understanding how racial scripts classify and regulate groups of people in the past to demonstrate how we are all connected in the present. Molina reviews how legal cases and immigration policies around Mexican immigrants’ claims to U.S. citizenship have been evaluated by using previous racial and legal knowledge about Asian immigrants and African Americans. We see how quickly Asians lose their “model” status among racial minorities, when they are not submissive or obedient.

Teng reminds readers that people still think about biology, race, and culture in ways where only some hybrid identities are available. Remember how white people are ex-pats but anyone else is an immigrant? We think that Chinese people can assimilate into America, but Americans cannot become Chinese. These ideas about one-way cultural and racial processes affirms the idea of the modern against the old and the idea that people can consent to becoming American but they have to be biologically descended from Chinese people to be Chinese. These assumptions about race, culture, and biology obscure how they are all social constructions responsive to a specific historical and political context.  

I hope Andi Mack does help the Disney Channel rebrand itself by adding to a discussion about race in America and the privilege of white, mixed-race actors in Hollywood.  And, I hope Andi gets to continue to try to figure out who she is, not only in relation to her mother, her friends, and her middle-school crush, but also in relation to her privileged racial identity.

 

~ Kara Takasaki is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin.

White Bodies, Brown Bodies: The Presidential Election and After

Critics, pundits, bloggers, and just about everyone with a pulse and a social media account have taken to the public sphere to explain how Hillary Clinton, the most unpopular candidate ever to win the popular vote, lost the presidential election to Donald Trump, the most unpopular person ever to occupy the executive branch. Blame was evenly distributed but didn’t explain much. Although data indicated that the median income of the Trump voter was $72,000, it was the fault of the white working class. It was also the fault of anyone without a college education as well as rural whites. Rural whites make up a paltry 17% of the entire electorate. Rural whites haven’t supported a Democratic candidate since the south was a one party system and Franklin Roosevelt was president.

It was white women’s fault because more white women voted for Trump than Hillary. However, more white women voted for Mitt Romney over Barak Obama four years ago, just as more white women voted for John McCain over Obama in 2008, which means that white women simply voted like white women have in recent elections when the Democrat’s candidate won. It was the fault of blacks because blacks cast fewer ballots in 2016 than in the previous two elections. Republicans managed to suppress minority voters with racist Voter ID Laws and other implicit racist tactics, such as supplying limited voting machines in minority precincts. Only stalwart leftist magazines like the New Republic pointed out that Trump’s support was found in the upper and middle class white suburbs, comprised of the very people who thrived after the recession, and were not affected by the last few decades of deindustrialization. On the positive side, it may have been the first time no one blamed black women for an undesirable outcome.

I’m not here to add to the cacophony of the blame game of why Hillary lost. It’s not very productive. I am here to advocate for the importance of the body as an independent variable. Bodies have agency in the sense that bodies exert an affect over political outcomes. I’ve done so elsewhere. I’ve explained how exercising power over one’s body can produce changes in others and how the performativity of protests can fuse protesters with audiences.

I’ve explained how the tension between racially threatening and racially non-threatening bodies continue to hinder struggles for racial equality and how good white bodies are an integral part of the neoliberal project. Others have as well. Marion Klawiter explained how different fields of contention formed around the bodies of breast cancer survivors and breast cancer victims. The events leading up to the 2016 election and waves of post-election protests provide an opportunity think how a network of white bodies formed a racist white meta-public in relation a profaned meta-public comprised of brown bodies, sick bodies, trans bodies, migrant bodies, and the bodies of refugees.

The formation of a racist white meta-public illustrates the fluid nature of America’s racialized social structure. Systemic racism captures how the many interconnected elements of society are held together by a singular logic of white racial dominance. The theory of systemic racism does more than explain how racial oppression is at the core of American society. It also explains the causal effect racism has in creating and maintaining interlocking white institutions, and traces the historical patterns of elite white power, including how elites responds to various forms of black civic inclusion. White and brown bodies link elite whites with ordinary whites because they are part of a cultural framework known as the white racial frame. The white racial frame is an overarching “white world view” that “encompasses a broad and persisting set of racial stereotypes, prejudices, ideologies, images, interpretations and narratives, emotions, and reactions to language accents, as well as racialized inclinations to discriminate.” Racialized bodies anchor racist meanings into publics. The body is a form of communication at the visual and affective level that communicates political meanings, narratives, and myths, and in turn, connects audiences with distinct and otherwise unconnected publics. Audiences read publics as sympathetic, dangerous, or subversive; as sacred or profane; as good or bad. Rather than use history to break down or ‘deconstruct’ the origins of elite white power, I prefer the analytical framework of assemblages to explain how the white racial frame operates like a web of racist meanings that connect publics with economic policy, with geography, and with police brutality.

Publics and public spheres have to be created. They do not simply exist, waiting around for us to enter. Judith Butler’s recent entry into the debates around performativity and assemblages explains the relationship between bodies and the making of publics. As Butler explained, bodies still come together with the streets to form a public,

No one body establishes the space of appearance, but this action, this performative exercise happens only between bodies, in a space that constitutes the gap between my own body and another’s. In this way, my body does not act alone, when it acts politically. Indeed, the action emerged from the between.

Publics are the means for marginalized groups to get their demands for equality into the broader political agenda. Publics make invisible groups and invisible bodies visible. In turn, Butler notes that the process of making a public “contests the distinction between public and private.” Butler, always the eternal optimist, imagines how an assemblage of a public can grant marginalized bodies a political voice. I’m not so optimistic. Marginalized groups have a limited control over how audiences respond to their claims. In the neoliberal era, the visibility of marginalized bodies triggers a white backlash — especially when racialized and other threatening bodies are visible.

The key site of political struggle in the contemporary public sphere has increasingly shifted from a discursive struggle to a corporeal one. The white and brown body is the visual cue that provides the initial reading of the public. In the current digital age of rapid news feeds made up of staged photo-ops, selfies, memes, gifs, scrolls, likes, and swipes — talk is downplayed. The importance of corporeal politics has increased in the digital age. The question is not just how embodied performances create publics, but rather, how elites and ordinary citizens bind and fail to bind heterogeneous publics together. The binding of heterogeneous publics illustrates the assemblage of a meta-public. Thus, meta-public is not simply comprised of a network of specific publics. It also captures an outcome, a dependent variable if you’ll have it, which is the current political climate.

Our current political climate is defined by the relationship between racism and neoliberalism. In Race and the Origins of Neoliberalism, I explained how the conditions for the neoliberal project were forged in the white response to the civil rights movement. A unified white response was made possible by what I dubbed the language of neoliberalism, or white-private/black-public. The language of neoliberalism refers to the assemblage of language around the signifiers of white, black, public, and private. Rather than divide the world into simple black and white categories, the form of racism that sustains neoliberalism is the result of combining the signifiers white-private and black-public. For example, elites weave together a thread of white-private-taxes to distort the perception of who ‘owns’ public resources, and a separate thread of white-private-security to define who is comforted by the expanded police and military presence. On the flip side, elites assemble a black-public-taxes sequence to define who benefits from public resources in order to rally support for privatizing our social welfare system. The language of neoliberalism expands in a non-linear fashion, existing at the center of a web of meanings connecting racism with deregulation, privatization, austerity, and taxation.

The current racist white meta-public grew out of the white response to real instances of racial integration. To give a brief historical example, let’s trace the white response to black inclusion since the civil rights movement. Political audiences and political parties have been segregated since the end of the civil rights movement. Lyndon Johnson was the last Democratic president to win the majority of the white vote. In the early 1970s Richard Nixon foresaw the existence of the Voting Rights Act as a political marker that would drive disaffected white voters to the Republican Party. The Republican Party was soon comprised of whites who responded to tax increases with tax revolts, integrated schools with white flight, black women receiving AFDC benefits with welfare queen stories, and growing black urban poverty with incarceration. The result was the nationalization of the neoliberal project through tax cuts, banking deregulation, private prisons, and cuts to AFDC.

Since the nationalization of the neoliberal project in 1979, each white response triggered an additional wave of neoliberal reforms. Republican’s rallied white voters against the 1993 Motor Voter Act via the myth of fraudulent black voter. Along with strategic gerrymandering, Republicans took control of congress in 1994, setting the stage for banking and pharmaceutical deregulations, and the privatization of social welfare. The Bush presidency began with a series of tax cuts for the wealthy. The terrorist attacks on 9/11 corresponded with a rise of white nationalism in relation to Arab bodies to justify war abroad. State’s continued to privatize prisons and public schools throughout the 2000s. It took the near collapse of America’s financial institutions and the mobilization of black voters to elect Barak Obama. Even then, Obama’s signature policy, the Affordable Health Care Act, was a system of privatized insurance. The federal government subsidizes private health care companies and private citizens to create the private health exchange market. The white response to Obama’s election was a combination of conspiracy theories about where he was born, the uber-neoliberal Tea Party that supports the complete privatization of public institutions, and states with a large minority population and a republican governor passed laws to limit minority votes, such as Voter ID laws.

The elite and middle class white response to the increased visibility of brown bodies since Obama’s second term led to the assemblage of the current meta-public. I define brown bodies as Arab bodies, black bodies, latino/a bodies, and Muslims bodies. In every case, the brown body serves as the focal point to influence the audience response to the public. Depending on the audience, a public of black bodies protesting police brutality can be a demand for reform or a riot. As the collection of local anti-racism and anti-police brutality groups assembled under the tag line #Blacklivesmatter, whites responded with their own tag line: #Bluelivesmatter. #Bluelivesmatter was not just a defense of the police. It was an affirmation of white supremacy, of racial discrimination, of legitimating the state violence against marginalized brown bodies.

The brown body provided a figurative focal point for middle class whites’ to link their own domestic anxieties with global and economic changes. The brown body is always nomadic — a stateless actor — that threatens white borders and steals white jobs. The visibility of Arab and Muslim bodies define the terrorist public that threatens whites’ sense of security. White Christian terrorists, white men and their guns and homemade bombs, are responsible for the overwhelming number of domestic terrorist acts. Yet, whites do not demand deporting other whites, they do not criminalize Christianity, and they do not place restrictions on easy gun access. The visibility of latino/a bodies connects legal and illegal immigration with global economic insecurity. Deindustrialization, driven by a combination of increased use of robots and automation in manufacturing, federal tax policies that supported relocation of firms from the northeast and great lakes region to right to work states in the south, the recent popularity disruptive business practices, and the privatization of social welfare since the 1980s, has eroded the value of real wages in the United States. It was not Mexican immigrants. But bodies carry mythologies that are more potent than data driven facts when influencing political ideology.

Brown bodies create different publics than trans bodies. Trans bodies subvert and undermine the gendered world order. The bathroom is reconstituted as a public as trans bodies come together to demand open access and equal use of a facility designed simply to relocate bodily wastes to a sewer treatment facility. The social conservative response to visibility of trans bodies was to assemble a new anti-gender equality public dominated by the bodies of heteronormative white men. The new anti-gender equality public linked with other publics: anti-black, anti-immigration, and anti-Arab. It was the affirmation of patriarchy via men’s ownership of women’s bodies. When pro-trans activists hold signs that read “It was never about bathrooms” I have a feeling the social conservatives concur.

Does the process of assembling a meta-public exist on the left? Clinton jammed the various racist, neo-nazi, sexist, and homophobic publics into a single alt-right public, or basket of deplorables. But the left has been unsuccessful in linking the alt-right with neoliberalism, which in my humble opinion must be done. This may indicate how the left’s inability to think of an alternative political and economic project to neoliberalism leaves them unable to create links with other publics. Or it may indicate that elite whites in the Democratic Party who’ve benefited from neoliberalism over the years aren’t as liberal and progressive as they think they are. It’s an empirical question.

This essay is modified from an earlier version published on the ASA Body & Embodiment Blog

Randolph Hohle, is Assistant Professor, Sociology, Fredonia, SUNY. His books include Black Citizenship and Authenticity in the Civil Rights Movement (Routledge, 2013) and Race and the Origins of Neoliberalism (Routledge, 2015). His upcoming book, Racism in the Age of Neoliberalism: A Meta History of Elite White Power in the United States, (Routledge, forthcoming). He can be reached at Randolph.Hohle@fredonia.edu; his website is Randolphohle.wordpress.com

Introducing: The Hashtag Syllabus Project

The Hashtag Syllabus Project launches today.  The “hashtag syllabus” has emerged as a digital, crowd-sourced form of knowledge production in response to the events in Charleston, Ferguson, and the Black Lives Matter movement.  

 

As historian Lisa A. Monroe has described them, these are “critical intellectual resources and promote collective study both within and outside of the academy during [a] moment of heightened racial tension.” By bringing these collections together here, my goal is to build on this work by making the knowledge within each one more accessible, discoverable, and open for further development and contribution from the activists, academics, and anyone who is simply interested in growing and learning more. 

 

Flower Floral photography backdrops

 

The Hashtag Syllabus Project, hosted here at Racism Review, brings together many of the syllabus projects that have cropped up on the internet over the past couple of years. The name of the project harkens to its digital origins–open access syllabi created outside of traditional academe and shareable through many online platforms, especially social media platforms. In keeping with the spirit of collecting and sharing these syllabi, it’s my hope that this Hashtag Syllabus Project can be useful in a variety of ways–for academics and educators looking to reimagine their classroom curricula, for independent thinkers searching for radical epistemologies, and for the activists hoping to bridge the perennial gap between theory and practice–this page is for you.

 

Each syllabus is prefaced by a short introduction to contextualize the work–feel free to click a syllabus and (re)discover histories, knowledges, and (your)self. And, please do contribute your own syllabus project. All credit is attributed to the original authors, creators, and contributors of these syllabi projects.

 

~ Alyssa Lyons is a graduate student in sociology at The Graduate Center, CUNY

College Racial Climates: Speaking Out

A 2017 survey of 706 college presidents conducted by the Gallup organization for Inside Higher Education offers some surprising and even troubling findings. Despite the fact that racial incidents are still occurring on college campuses, most college presidents view race relations positively on their own campuses. Sixty-three percent rated race relations as good and 20 percent as excellent, with only one percent rating race relations as poor. The presidents’ responses were similar in the survey conducted last year. Yet both the 2016 and 2017 surveys reveal a persistent view among presidents that race relations are less positive on other campuses. In 2017 only 21 percent of presidents saw race relations on other campuses as positive, with 61 percent viewing race relations as fair. And 66 percent of the president disagreed or strongly disagreed that racial incidents on campus have increased since the election.

In addition, roughly only a third of the presidents reported that they have spoken out more than they typically do on political issues either during or since the election. Nonetheless, a majority of the presidents believe that the election revealed the growth of anti-intellectual sentiment and a growing divide between higher education and American society.

What accounts for the disconnection between the view from the top and day-to-day racial realities campuses? Take, for example, a report by the Anti-Defamation League released this month indicating that 107 incidents of white supremacist activity on college campuses have occurred during the current academic year. The report indicates the election of Donald Trump has emboldened white supremacists to step up activism on college campus and distribute racist and anti-Semitic flyers.

In Alvin Evans and my forthcoming book, Leading a Diversity Cultural Shift in Higher Education (Routledge), our study reveals that the implementation of diversity strategic plans is uneven at best. Such plans may persist as high-level statements without the resources, accountability, and delegation of authority needed to build inclusive campus cultures and ensure equity in processes and outcomes. The continuing isolation of minoritized students on predominantly white campuses has given rise to student demonstrations demanding specific improvements including diversity training, resources, curricular change, and a more inclusive climate. At the same time, the leadership of doctoral universities remains predominantly white and male with a noticeable lack of minority representation among top administration with the sole exception of the chief diversity officer.

It is unclear what objective ways of measuring campus climate led so many presidents to view race relations on their own campuses so positively. An extensive body of social science research demonstrates that in the post-Civil Rights era, subtle forms of “everyday” discrimination such as micro-inequities and micro-aggressions can shape behaviors and send devaluing messages to faculty, staff, and students from nondominant groups. For example, in Diverse Administrators in Peril, our survey of university administrators revealed that African American/black administrators believe to a greater degree that minority employees experience covert discrimination on a frequent basis compared to white participants.

The absence of protests or racial incidents is not a measure of whether institutional climate is inclusive. As we have shown in Are the Walls Really Down? Behavioral and Organizational Barriers to Faculty and Staff Diversity, subtle barriers that impact the success of individuals from nondominant groups include stereotyping, application of differential standards, myths of incompetence, lack of support, and failure to empower and include in decision-making. Acts of process-based discrimination frequently do not rise to the level of institutional attention. Without concrete programs that address institutional micro-inequities and how these subtle forms of discrimination are manifested both in everyday experiences and in consequential institutional processes, the likelihood of organizational change will remain illusory.

The second major concern arising from the Inside Higher Ed survey is the indication that many college presidents have not spoken out about the divisive political climate driven by Donald Trump, an individual who, as Nicholas Kristoff points out, has been associated for more than four decades with racism and bigoted comments. Trump’s devaluing of the truth and unveiled attacks on minorities, Muslims, disabled persons, immigrants, and other marginalized groups in American society threatens to destroy our sense of decency and morality. This loss of morality strips the veil of pretense that has shrouded our vision of inclusion.

While many courageous college and university presidents have spoken out forcefully against Trump’s travel ban, this issue is only part of the persistent dilemma affecting race relations on campus. Much work still remains to be done to build inclusive campus climates. In his ground-breaking book, Systemic Racism: A Theory of Oppression, sociologist Joe Feagin indicates the necessity of moving beyond individual approaches to social justice to a group conception that addresses how racial injustice privileges one group over others within the fabric of our institutions.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us:

…the call to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.

In this light, consider how Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber frames the problem of race relations on college campuses, leading him to call for self-reflective institutional reports, action-oriented programs, and solutions:

I have heard compelling testimony from students of color about the distress, pain, and frustration that is caused by a campus climate that they too often find unwelcoming or uncaring. …these problems are not unique to Princeton—on the contrary, similar stories are unfolding at many peer institutions—but that does not make them any more acceptable. Our students deserve better, and Princeton must do better. We must commit ourselves to make this University a place where students from all backgrounds feel respected and valued.

The Strengths of Being Multiracial

In a recent NYTimes piece, “What Biracial People Know,” Moises Velasquez-Manoff assembles a variety of compelling studies demonstrating that people of mixed heritage—-or even people who have similarly cultivated a “limber-mindset,” perhaps by living an extended period of time in another culture—have sharper mental acuity, and stronger problem-solving abilities, than those with a monocultural background. Even as young as 3 months old, these infants begin having greater facial recognition abilities than their counterparts. When presented with word-association and other creative problem-solving tasks, those reminded of their multiracial heritage performed better than those who were not similarly primed.

The research Velasquez-Manoff reviews echoes other studies done around monolingual vs. bilingual education that reveal that fluent bilingual students tend to perform better in school than either Spanish-only OR English-only students—challenging the advisability of the “straight-line assimilation” admonishments of old. But Velasquez-Manoff goes even further by looking at not just at individual-level outcomes, but societal outcomes—such as “economic prosperity, greater scientific prowess and a fairer judicial process”—to argue that an entire community benefits when groups forge intimate connections beyond just their own tribe.

This piece comes across as much a celebration of diversity as a stark warning—warning to those who would like to turn the clock back to a time when many took solace in the comfort of the uniformly familiar. With facts like these—“multiracials make up an estimated 7 percent of Americans, according to the Pew Research Center, and they’re predicted to grow by 20 percent in 2050”—Velasquez-Manoff makes it evident there is no turning back this tide. In the shift from an Obama to Trump administration, he argues, the step back from multiracial to relatively monoracial is evident. And this “closing in” of ranks, as if fearful of an impending multiracial nation, emanates from a grave misperception that “out-groups gain at in-groups’ expense”—the great zero-sum game fallacy. In presenting this collection of studies, Velasquez-Manoff makes an excellent case for those who fear a society where whites are not the majority. He demonstrates that everyone in a society stands to benefit when its members are better able to perceive a situation and solve a problem from multiple vantage points—skills that are clearly heightened in multiculturally fluent individuals. He writes, “cities and countries that are more diverse are more prosperous than homogenous ones, and that often means higher wages for native born citizens.”

Velasquez-Manoff seems to implore—even if diversity scares you and you want nothing to do with it, just on the basis of this evidence that you’d be part of a stronger, richer, smarter society, wouldn’t you want to come on board for the ride?

Yet if it were that simple, of course it would have been done by now. I have two biracial children myself, and several older biracial stepchildren. Recently I asked one of my stepsons, now nearing college graduation, when did he first realize there was this thing called race separating us? Of course he spent nearly every day of his life going back and forth between families of different skin colors, but that never passed the radar. After all, when a rainbow of shades and tones is your daily reality, it’s hard to tell where this dividing line is that everyone’s talking about. I’ll never forget having to explain to my daughter about legal segregation—she was assigned the part of Dr. King in a kindergarten play, and all she was told was he gave a speech and had a dream, so I had a lot of filling in of details to do! I could see her rolling all of her different family members through her head, trying to figure out which ones back then would have been considered black, and the funny thing is she got 99% of them “wrong” by society’s standards—I mean, after all, who do you know who looks “black?”

It’s instructive to see the nonsense logic of “race” through a kid’s eyes. But my stepson told me it was not until he started to notice the differences in the churches he would attend with each part of the family—all the while seeming to be talking about the same God—but doing so very differently. Such a clear indicator that race has so little to do with skin color and so much to do with the way we humans have persisted in organizing ourselves. What once existed by law now continues de facto, because the scars are very deep, because we fear venturing out of comfort zones, because we continue to be excluded subtly rather than overtly—there are so many reasons. (See Gene Zubovich’s thoughtful essay for more on church segregation specifically.)

Our churches and our families are some of our most intimate spaces. We go there to take refuge from the onslaught of pain that the world “out there” throws us. Many of us turn to a spiritual community, or an intimate relationship, to feel safe, to be able to let down our guard, to finally no longer have to worry what everyone else thinks, or what someone might do to hurt us. Velasquez-Manoff cites a study of college roommates (by Sarah Gaither at Duke), matched across racial lines, and in this intimate space, yes -— it was not easy, at first. But after initial discomfort subsides or is worked through, the gains for both parties to the relationship are undeniable.

Velasquez-Manoff writes: “Diversity is hard. But that’s exactly why it’s so good for us,” and quoting Katherine Phillips of Columbia Business School, likens it to the pain of muscles in a workout—the hurt is indicative of something growing stronger.

Indeed, research I’ve done with Kathleen Korgen shows that even in close cross-racial friendships, friends tend to avoid the topic of race altogether, or else joke about it without taking racism seriously as a difference between them. Is it any wonder that research shows us many more young people are having cross-racial dating relationships now, but far fewer of those dating relationships actually move onto an interracial marriage —- hence sociologist Zhenchao Qian reminding us this is the “last taboo.”

It is one thing for two people to connect one-on-one, but quite another for them to forge a marriage which bonds their entire social/familial circles —- that will take some hard word, creating conflicts, some of which might never get fully worked out. Those who are already facing the daily pain of racism may not see themselves as able to voluntarily sign themselves up for yet another battle with this monster called race—-after all, so much of it they did not sign up for and is out of their control. And on the flip side, someone like President Donald Trump with a fragile ego and in unfamiliar territory may seek to surround himself with sameness in effort to assuage his own fears—-as might many of his supporters also.

As Joe Feagin and Kimberley Ducey argue in their forthcoming book Elite White Men Ruling, Trump operates from a white-virtuous-arrogance frame. Elite white men often have little to no intimate contact with nonwhites yet boldly attempt to speak with authority about them nonetheless. Diversity can be scary to the monoracials on both “sides,” albeit for quite different reasons.

Yet Velasquez-Manoff’s brilliantly crafted piece demonstrates with a mountain of evidence that facing those fears and struggles will produce a result that is so worth it! And he further shows us that even without interracial marriage or offspring of our own, we can take the plunge to “diversify” our own experiences to similar positive results. But no pain, no gain. So time to get to work to make this a stronger brighter world for our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and beyond. Because after all, there is no turning back this tide of multiracials coming up to show us the way!

Dr. Eileen O’Brien is Associate Professor of Sociology and Associate Chair of Social Sciences at Saint Leo University, Virginia campus. In addition to teaching and writing books on race relations and racism, she leads community workshops on race, including the upcoming “Loving Across Differences.”